Posted by fxckfeelings on November 19, 2015
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Sometimes, when you add up everything good about your spouse and subtract the stuff that drives you nuts, the marital math shows you that they’re not equal to (e)X, i.e., that they’re worth keeping around, despite their less attractive behavior. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re trying to stay together despite some behavior you can’t stand, here are five ways to positively address the issue without going positively nuts.
1. Be Calm and Clarify
With as much clinical distance as possible, identify a grouch-related behavior that is simple, easily defined, and well worth reducing. Possible examples include a raised voice (that can be heard clearly in the next room, or next town), swearing, or personal criticism that is more cruel than part of a constructive conversation.
2. Frank but Fair
Before beginning the discussion, announce your intentions by first describing your pleasure in your spouse’s company when he’s being nice/not doing that one jerky thing. Assert your belief that it hurts your relationship for you to hang out and engage in conversation when he’s not being his normal, nice self. Then define the behavior you don’t like without sounding critical or arguing about whether or not it’s bad; slinging insults is objectively bad, no matter who’s slinging them.
3. Brace Yourself
Even if your spouse agrees with your goals, he or she may complain that your new rules are destroying his spontaneity and causing him to second-guess himself and feel perpetually self-conscious. Don’t argue, but express confidence in your observations and the long-term benefits of change. Show no guilt and offer no explanation when you implement your plan, just support and assurance that this transition period will soon pass.
4. Extend the Experiment
Whether you try withdrawing in response to negative behaviors or lavishing praise on ones that are positive or both, refine your methods as you observe how they work. Don’t expect to get your husband to see what he’s doing wrong or agree to change. Remember, your goal is to protect yourself, even if you can’t reduce his inappropriate behavior.
5. Embrace an Exit Strategy
If you’ve done your best to alert your spouse to his bad habits and he still can’t reign them in, then your next best strategy is to avoid being in the presence of that behavior altogether. Put together an escape plan that will protect you from having to listen to further grouchiness while also discouraging it. For example, you can leave the room, put in ear plugs, or go for a walk. Because if s/he can’t keep bad behavior under wraps, you can always keep up good methods for getting around it or, if you really can’t take it, getting a good lawyer to get out of the marriage entirely.
Posted by fxckfeelings on November 17, 2015
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You’d think that people would want to stop doing things that are irrational and painful, but it’s because they’re uncontrollable that they’re doing them in the first place without being able to stop. In any case, don’t let your allergy to irritability control your partnership decisions. Look at the whole person before making up your mind about the value of preserving your relationship. Then, if you decide it’s worthwhile, we’ll have tips later this week for using your acceptance as a tool in negotiating a better relationship that any (mostly) rational person could agree to.
My husband has been diagnosed with ADHD, takes meds for ADHD, and sees a psychiatrist twice a month. A couple times a week (sometimes more) he gets angry/irritated with me for the tiniest of missteps. I’m usually surprised and I never know what will set him off. I’ve been seeing a therapist who helps me to maneuver around it and not take it personally, etc., but it always stings when he gets pissed at me. It seems kind of human to flinch when anger comes at you out of the blue. Plus, he denies that it’s anger, even though if any human were to overhear his voice and see his face, they would say, “wow, he’s pissed at her.” He’s really wonderful in many ways (which is why I’m trying to find a solution), but I don’t know if this is something that can be resolved. I have a metaphor for the situation: its like we have this lovely glass of water, but he keeps pissing in it, then says, “just drink it, it’s just a little piss.” Well, no thanks. I know sometimes bad and unfair things happen and when they do, by all means, get angry…but his anger is way out of proportion. My goal is to have peace and harmony in our marriage.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 21, 2015
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Back-to-school time can bring emotional issues bubbling up to the surface as personality conflicts and intense power dynamics pop up and throw you and your family off-kilter.
Here are five all-too-common back-to-school issues and our advice for dealing with them.
1) Your Kid Hates His Teacher
It’s terrible to imagine your child feeling miserable for an entire school year, but as your kid’s number one teacher (tenured in perpetuity), you’re the one to help him manage frustrations and make the best of them. So take time, gather facts, and see if there’s something you can do to improve teacher-child communication or their attitudes towards one another, or have a positive talk with the principal about finding a better match for your son. Otherwise, do your best to teach him that learning is more important than any single teacher, that surviving the year is more important than showing your teacher he can’t get away with being a jerk, and that he can get through tough times like these with his family’s support.
2) You Hate His Teacher
Of course, if you hate your kid’s teacher as much as he does then you can at least validate his views, although it will take a lot more discipline and self-restraint to get through the year. If your kid is fine with his teacher but you aren’t, then you’re stuck keeping your feelings to yourself, at least at home. You could try having another positive pow-wow with the principal, listing reasons why a different match would be more successful. If your kid seems happy in the class, however, then you’re probably better off following common logic and avoiding the principal’s office entirely. If your kid can survive a year with this jerk, so can you.
3) You Hate The Other Parents
If you don’t like the values or characters of other parents in your neighborhood—and, given how passionate some parents can be about their specific choices and yours, this is not an uncommon scenario—school can be more alienating for you than for your kid. Your job is to keep your frustration to yourself and help him feel he belongs in class, whether or not you feel you belong. Your hope is that the kids are better than their parents and that your kid will find friends he likes in his class, even if you can’t.
4) The Other Kids Hate Your Kid
If your child is being picked on, definitely try to work with the school and other parents to stop bullying, but be prepared to get a lot of defensive responses because no parent wants to admit that they’ve spawned a bully and schools often lack the resources to really tackle the problem. Coach your child on how to handle bullies or just avoid them, but be sure to let your child know that you think he’s fine, even if he’s a social outcast for the time being. There may currently be no friends at school, but there are always friends at home.
5) You Hate Your Kid
Every parent fears having a kid s/he really doesn’t like, so commend yourself on surviving this living nightmare. You can see a therapist or ask yourself whether you’re overly irritable with everyone and need to improve your behavior and/or try medication for improving your mood, but if the answer is that it’s just your kid that’s a jerk, then you’re stuck. So if you’re burdened with unavoidable negative feelings, build up your ability to be a true professional, regardless of how you feel. Teachers have to spend huge amounts of time with kids they hate, so you can, too.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 13, 2015
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Finding equilibrium in your life is hard; as we discussed earlier this week, creating balance in a family of unbalanced people is nearly impossible. In other families, however, you can coach someone into a new, more positive direction. In doing so, you can help them create more security in their own lives, improving their balance and strengthening your bonds instead of risking them.
I worry about my son because he’s had a hard time getting his life started since he graduated from college a few years ago. He’s very bright and was always a hard worker, but, right after he graduated, it took him a long time to get going and find a job, probably due to a combination of depression, anxiety, and no focus. In any case, he’s now working, but he needs a graduate degree if he wants to make a decent salary in his field and have any sort of financial security, and he never gets around to applying or even looking into possible local programs. He’s not touchy about being pushed, but I hate the idea of nagging him. My goal is to get him to see that he needs to do more if he really wants to be independent.
Helping kids get organized does not require nagging, just administration. Remember, a good boss doesn’t nag, just sets a clear direction for a good reason, assumes that’s what you want to do, and helps you get there. Take that approach as a parent, particularly when, as in your case, your son doesn’t get angry about being advised, encouraged, or incentivized. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 25, 2015
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Taking on responsibility is like drinking fine wine; the right amount will make you feel pleasant and, as of the latest study, improve your health, but the wrong amount will either leave you flat or flat on your face. Unfortunately, how much responsibility we decline or assume is too often a matter of thoughtless emotion and habit rather than reasoned consideration. So develop your own procedures for examining the responsibility that you should really claim. Your result will always reflect your best efforts if you drink/choose responsibilities, well, responsibly.
My girlfriend is very nice to her father, who doesn’t like to let her out of his sight during her visits (which are every weekend, rain or shine). He’s always had weird mood swings though, going unpredictably from doting to totally paranoid, so she does her best never to rock his boat. I thought she’d be happy when I offered to come along—given that the visits take up most of her weekends, going with her would make it easier for us to see each other—and initially, she was excited for me to join her. As his mood started to change during that first visit, however, she became very controlling and nasty with me. She said she wanted to protect me and also make sure I didn’t upset him, but she was just plain rude, and I felt she needed to know how abusive she’d become, which then triggered a big fight. My goal is to see her father get some help, because if he can work out his issues, maybe she will have no reason to become so unpleasant.
It’s not unusual for people who bend over backwards with kindness to snap into rage; bend anything too far and it’s bound to snap eventually. Unfortunately, the person who gets snapped at isn’t always the person who was doing the pushing in the first place.
These types knock themselves out to be unselfish and meet the needs of others, but instead of getting thanks and cooperation, they get obstruction, demands and criticism, which, understandably, can make them a bit testy. Then they feel guilty for their nasty words, and have to try even harder to do the backwards-bending Pilates. If they didn’t snap, they end up twisted into a human Cinnabon. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 20, 2015
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People often assume that psychological problems require treatment, but they don’t stop to think about what treatment requires from the psychological problems/person with them, namely, a willingness to weigh choices, make decisions, and take action. Otherwise, people can get pushed into talking about problems they’re indifferent to or being overwhelmed by problems they’re actually familiar with. So ask yourself how treatable a problem/person is before urging them to get help. Remember, you can lead a person to therapy, but you can’t make them think.
I wish my husband could be happier, but therapy doesn’t seem to be helping him. He hates his job, but he can’t bring himself to look for a new one or find ways to do more with his free time. I was hoping therapy would get him to decide what he wanted to do, so he could be more active and happy, and even though his therapist has given him some good advice, my husband is just as miserable. He says he enjoys speaking to the therapist, and I’ve told him and his therapist what I think the problem is, but there’s no change. My goal is to see my husband be happy and not be a victim of his work, and maybe decide whether he needs a different or better kind of therapy.
Unlike most other treatments out there for what ails you, therapy is a two-way street; you can get dragged to the dentist or hassled into seeing the hemorrhoid doctor and, even if you didn’t want to go, you can still walk away feeling better. If you only go to a therapist to please others, however, you’ll usually just be wasting your time.
That’s why, despite your good intentions to ease your husband’s unhappiness, don’t assume that therapy has much to offer unless he’s the one offering to go without being coaxed. That means he seems willing to weigh his alternatives and consider the impact of his choices, not let someone else choose for him. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 2, 2015
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When faced with a seemingly insurmountable issue—an illness, personality flaw, really ugly feet—most people think that getting to the bottom of that issue and finding an answer of some kind is their ultimate goal, when in reality, it’s just the beginning. Too often, they’re actually looking for someone to blame or focusing on one small problem and ignoring the big picture. So don’t let helplessness guide your assumptions, your searches, or your choices in footwear. Ask yourself what answers you’re really looking for and whether you actually know more or less than you think you do and, given that knowledge, whether anything other than life is really to blame.
I can’t stand seeing how depressed my husband is, and no medication seems to help. Several things he tried were very promising at first but then pooped out or quickly caused side effects that made him even more miserable. I can’t get a straight answer from his doctors as to why they’re not working or whether his symptoms are from his illness or being over-medicated. No one seems to know what they’re doing, or what to try, or why the medication isn’t working, or when to stop when they’re not working…I feel really lost. My goal is to find some way to get his treatment on track.
When treatment doesn’t work, it’s natural to feel helpless and look for an explanation. Both fortunately and unfortunately, for most psychiatric problems, the answer is simple– treatment often doesn’t work.
Remember, the scientific meaning for “effective” is “better than nothing,” not “usually works.” And when “better than nothing” translates to “maybe less terrible than normal,” it’s easy to feel effectively screwed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 29, 2015
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Strong emotions often push us to act without weighing consequences, simply because we feel helpless and need to take action; that’s why the world has so many unworn expensive shoes, memorial tattoos, and children born just before or after their parents’ divorce. In reality, we’re often screwed no matter how we choose to react, or we’re just panicking for no reason and no action is required in the first place. In any case, no matter the emotional forces, think first and act later, weighing your alternatives and acting only if you think it’s necessary. You might not feel any immediate relief, but in the long run, you won’t have anything (or anyone) to regret.
My grown son has always been very difficult, but his last outburst was just too much. He caught me at a time when I was having a tough time and felt vulnerable, and I told him I thought he was being a selfish, self-centered little shit, so he told me never to talk to him again and hung up. Unfortunately, even if I shouldn’t have said those mean things out loud, I was right; he’s a jerk, so none of his friendships has lasted and his kids are very careful not to aggravate him. Even though I feel really guilty about it, I just can’t bring myself to pick up the phone or write him and try to patch things up. I know that if I don’t reach out to him, I won’t see those kids, but if I do, I’ll have to have a conversation with him, which is just going to be unpleasant and end badly. My goal is to figure out a way to repair our relationship so I won’t dread talking to him or feel bad about being such a heartless parent.
The good news is that you’re living evidence that Asshole™-ishness isn’t always genetic. The bad news is that you have still spawned an Asshole™.
As we’ve said before, Asshole™s can cause serious harm without any real provocation; they’re usually very needy, and their neediness causes them pain that they think is your fault, particularly if you’re a parent or other person who stirs up those feelings by virtue of your very existence.
Asshole™s truly believe you deserve punishment. What you deserve, besides a better son, is protection. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 20, 2014
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In this day and age, it’s almost impossible not to know what Attention Deficit Disorder is (or to not have a direct connection to someone who has it, or to not have an opinion on it, just because). On the other hand, very few people are aware of Attention Surfeit Disorder, which is when people habitually get so perfectly focused on the problems that grab them that they can’t see why anything else matters, even if it’s a looming disaster. Whether you can’t focus on any one thing or focus far too much on one thing exactly, be aware that our brains have different ways of focusing, and that each has its own strength and weakness. Then, whether you have a fun diagnosis or not, you’ll be better at managing your priorities instead of following whatever captures your attention.
I’m curious to your thoughts on subclinical anorexia. I was (voluntarily) hospitalized with anorexia nervosa last year. Since then I’ve managed to keep my weight out of the danger zone, but not up to where my physicians would like it. Honestly, I don’t see the point. Even at my lowest weight I completed an MPH at Hopkins (my third post-graduate degree), I’m in the “healthy” BMI range, technically, and I hold a full time job in addition to teaching science at a local University two nights a week. Who the hell cares if I don’t hit my target weight? My goal is to continue to achieve excellence without worrying too much about what doctors tell me about my weight.
When you focus too much on perfection in one particular aspect of your life, be it in terms of appearance or professional achievement, it’s like searching for a house based on the quality of the faucets; you become so fixated on the gleaming chrome that you don’t notice the lack of square footage, light, or even plumbing.
Obsessional, single-minded focus is always unhealthy when it gets you to disregard whatever else is truly important in your life, like your health and friendships. You tell yourself it’s good to work harder to make yourself better…while losing track of the fact that what you’re sacrificing is worth more than the excellence you’re driven to achieve. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 21, 2014
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We’re all familiar with the ol’ break-up mantra, “it’s not you, it’s me,” which can also apply when you’re having repeated issues with a loved one. Sometimes, however, it’s worth considering whether it’s not you, but them; sure, sometimes there’s nothing wrong in a relationship other than the feelings they leave you with, but other people who look normal have subtle problems that can’t be changed. Instead of responding to your instincts about normality, weirdness, and responsibility, learn to accept your observations, discount your feelings, and think hard about where you think things need to go. Then you’re much more likely to come up with action or non-action plans that will best serve your needs, and turn them and you into a more functional “us.”
My ten-year-old daughter is sloppy about her homework, but I don’t let her watch TV until she’s done it properly, so it’s past her bedtime so she never gets to watch her programs and she’s mad at me. At that point I’m mad at her, because I don’t like being the evil mother and she could easily do her homework in a fraction of the time if she was just a little more careful in the first place. Her teachers also say she blurts out answers before she thinks and makes herself look foolish. My goal is to get her to take care with her homework and get it done properly the first time, so we don’t have to struggle through the rest of the evening.
Both you and your daughter seem dedicated to getting through this homework situation, as evidenced by the fact that you’ve both made the ultimate sacrifice; you’ve given up your precious evening relaxation hours, and she’s given up prime time television.
What you need to ask yourself, however, is whether her sloppiness and foot-dragging are due to low motivation and stubbornness or a glitch in the way she learns new information, because your sacrifices—your time on the couch with wine, her “Vampire Diaries”—may be in vain if her brain doesn’t do homework well and she’s feeling like a failure. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »